SocraticGadfly: SCOTUS brings 4th Amendment into digital age, supports #digitalprivacy

June 25, 2014

SCOTUS brings 4th Amendment into digital age, supports #digitalprivacy

The Supreme Court has ruled that police need a search warrant to look at your cellphone.

The first big "takeaway" is that this is a unanimous ruling. While I'm not going to turn cartwheels, that's generally good news for digital privacy cases coming before the court in the future.

That's specifically because the Supreme Court upheld an appellate court ruling that said:
“Today, many Americans store their most personal ‘papers’ and ‘effects’ in electronic format on a cellphone, carried on the person,” Judge Norman H. Stahl wrote for a divided three-judge panel in Mr. Wurie’s case, quoting the words of the Fourth Amendment.

Roberts took the opinion. He notes:
Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.
He even, per Scotusblog, compared ideas of police wanting to do warrantless cell phone searches, to British writs of assistance that were a factor leading to the Revolutionary War.

This is indeed a new "bright line."

And, the Nine rejected the Obama Department of Justice's request for broad latitude on when a warrantless search can be conducted. It said that only exigent circumstances, i.e., along the lines of "clear and present danger," allow for that.

But, the reason I won't turn too many cartwheels is that this same court, essentially the same, ruled a few years back that police can arrest you for a moving violation as a driver.

Still, let's celebrate this as a definite win.

Second big SCOTUS case? Judges said the individualized antenna service, Aereo, DID break copyright, etc., and was in essence like a cable company. That case gets remanded back to district court. I disagree with the ruling, which is a clear loss for Aereo. Not sure how much I disagree, or how much weight it gets.

Aereo has a simple solution. Charge for the service. Figure out a way to charge customers less than for cable, and you're still a winner.

The Hobby Lobby/Obamacare case was not decided today.

But, two important lower court rulings were also favorable to civil liberties.

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